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So one thing I found odd in the DM's Basic Rules v0.1pdf was a large list of animals that seemed so insignificant as to wonder why it was included in the PDF. For example, the "Rat" monster, has 1 hitpoint, and a CR of 0, it can hit for only 1 point of damage with a +0 to hit.

However, I then noticed that there are swarm creatures, such as a "Swarm of Rats" which has 24 hit points, +2 to hit, 7 damage or 3 damage when it has less than half it's hitpoints, and is listed as "Medium swarm of Tiny beasts". Swarms also have the following trait:

The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.

This made me think that this was very neat. A swarm is made up of indidvual creatures, and each hitpoint means each creature died. So for a swarm of rats, I might think this means that there are 24 rats in the swarm.

But is this actually the case? When a swarm is reduced to 1 or 2 hitpoints, should I switch those out for actual rat creatures? (This would basically cause the swarm to lose the damage resistances, immunities and reduce the amount of damage it can do.)

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You can, but there is little sense to do it.

There is not a rule about that, and, while the DM can do as he considers opportune, the individual creatures are often too weak to fight individually, and are no challenge at all for the PCs. Also, the Monster manual (p. 337) says the following about swarms:

The swarms ... aren't ordinary or benign assemblies of little creatures. They form as a result of some sinister or unwholesome influence.... Even druids can't charm these swarms, and their aggressiveness is borderline unnatural.

So it is plausible that reducing a swarm hit points to 0 does not necessarily mean killing every one of them (unless you use a fireball or similar method). Most often it means that you killed enough of them to to make the rest of the creatures in the swarm return to their standard behaviour and flee in all directions.

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Does 3.5 provide stats for individual swarm members? – GMNoob Aug 14 '14 at 9:58
    
Heh, 1d3-4 they heal you when they bite? Thanks. So you are saying I might need to wait for the monster manual / dmg to see how swarms are defined? Can you see its defined in the dmbasic book similarly to how it is in 3.5? – GMNoob Aug 14 '14 at 10:18
    
With the release of the Monster Manual, further description of Swarms are available In summary : *Swarms ... form as a result of some sinister or unwholesome influence ... even Druids can't charm these swarms, and their aggressiveness is borderline unnatural.*(MM p. 337) Updating this answer with MM reference will improve it. – KorvinStarmast Jan 5 at 16:47

No,

Many of the weak creatures were added to account for the familiars that can be obtained through the 1st level conjuration spell, Find Familiar. Note it is a ritual which also be obtained through the Ritual Caster feat.

Unfortunately that can only be learned by consulting the 5e PHB not the Player's Basic Rule for 5e. It looks like the Wizards team just automatically threw in the list of creatures in the back of 5e PHB along with the other monsters.

On Page 304 of the 5e PHB before the list of creatures in a back appendix.

Many spells and class features allow characters to transform into an animal, summon creatures, serve as familiars, and to create undead.

I will add that various refereeing advice in the various released books stresses the idea that players can attempt things that their character can logically do and the dungeon master uses the rules as guidelines. So it is logical if that a character can obtain one or more individual creatures out of a swarm. That when this occurs you would use the individual creature's stats not the swarm stats.

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